Genders and Partners

Elder Law and Retirement Planning: The BIG Estate Planning Issues

Elder Law and Retirement Planning - The BIG Estate Planning Issues

Elder Law and Retirement Planning are areas of estate planning relating to government benefits such as veterans’ pensions, Medicare & Centrelink, as well as to accommodation issues specific to seniors, such as retirement village contracts.  Other issues might include the need for long term care planning, solving disputes with family members, providing for powers of attorney, medical care planning or guardianship.

Elder Law is a growing specialty of estate planning that helps the elderly deal with many of the problems unique to their circumstances as retirees:

  • Preservation or transfer of assets seeking to avoid spousal impoverishment when one spouse enters a nursing home;
  •  Medicare claims and appeals; qualification and application; planning strategies;
  • Centrelink (formerly department of social security) pensions and disability claims and appeals;
  • Private health insurance issues;
  • Superannuation and life insurance issues;
  • Disability planning, including use of durable powers of attorney, discretionary trusts, advanced directives & “living wills,” for financial management and health care decisions, and other means of delegating management and decision-making to another in case of incompetency or incapacity;
  •  Guardianships;
  • Estate planning, including planning for the management of one’s estate during life and its disposition on death through the use of trusts, Wills and other planning documents;
  • Probate;
  • Administration and management of trusts and estates;
  • Long term care placements in nursing home and life care communities;
  • Nursing home issues including questions of capacity, patients’ rights and nursing home quality;
  • Elder abuse and fraud recovery cases;
  • Housing issues, including discrimination and home equity conversions (reverse mortgage);
  • Age discrimination in employment;
  • Retirement, including public and private retirement benefits, survivor benefits and pension benefits;
  • Mental health issues, especially regarding capacity and ability to live independently;

Genders and Partners

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Estate Planning for Illness and Incapacity

Estate Planning for Illness and Incapacity

Millions of Australians live with chronic illness or disabling injury. Many more will develop progressive and degenerating diseases of the mind and body.  With so many facing life with such severe challenges, smart estate planning can make the difference between maximising control over your life or falling victim to it.

How should they plan their estate to maximise their freedom, independence & quality of life?

What impact will your chronic illness have upon your health & mobility, your capacity & cognitive functioning? How might this change over time? How do you protect yourself from its effects?

Each chronic illness, whether dementia or senility, Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease or ALS, diabetes or cancer – has its own unique implications for planning. One-size-fits-all generic assumptions can be detrimental to you and your loved ones.

You should consult a lawyer who specialises in estate planning in Adelaide, preferably one with experience in dealing with the special needs of disabled & incapacitated people.

Your lawyer will discuss with you a variety of legal documents.  These may include Enduring Powers of Attorney, and how they may be tailored to address your concerns.

Other documents may include Medical Powers of Attorney (sometimes called living wills or health proxies), Advanced Directives, and Discretionary Trusts.

Your lawyer can draft legal documents to protect you in the context of your chronic illness, and to address the anticipated course of your illness.

Genders and Partners

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Peanuts and Monkeys in Estate Planning

It’s not hard to find do-it-yourself Wills or Will-kits and other estate-planning materials on the Internet. But the topic is complicated, and the right solution is specific to each individual.

The laws vary from country to country, and even within Australia they vary from state to state.  They also change over time, and the laws related to estate planning have also undergone rapid changes internationally over the past several years and are starting to change in Australia too.  Further changes to the law are expected in the next few years, as Australian governments try to cope with the retirement of so many Baby Boomers.

If you’re creating or updating an estate plan, it’s essential that you seek the advice of a lawyer who’s well versed in the key issues. Not only can a specialist lawyer advise you how to ensure that your assets are properly distributed and that your health care proceeds in accordance with your wishes, but he can also do so with an eye toward protecting those assets (from creditors, bankruptcy, litigation etc).

Of course, any time you hear the word “lawyer,” it’s natural to worry about the legal costs you might incur. But the process is more affordable than people fear. You might be tempted to postpone creating an estate plan, assuming that you need to have a lot of assets to make the process worthwhile. Alternatively, there are plenty of excuses to delay this important process: waiting until after they are married, until the kids are born, until the kids are grown, until they’ve retired, until the grandkids are born etc. But everyone – regardless of life stage or the size of their estate – should think about hiring a lawyer to draft the basic estate-planning documents: a Will, an Advanced Directive, and powers of attorney.

Before you hire an estate-planning lawyer to draft or update your estate plan, it’s important to understand your role in the estate-planning process. Your estate plan will be most effective if you spend some time at the outset finding the right lawyer for your needs and thinking through what you’re trying to achieve as well as whom you trust to see your wishes through.

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Silence & Procrastination: Your Family’s Enemies

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Silence & Procrastination: Your Family’s Enemies

When people consider end-of-life issues, they often don’t want to talk about it with their family, out of a desire to spare everybody’s feelings.  After all, death & dying is nobody’s favourite topic of conversation. It makes a lot of people feel awkward & uncomfortable, inadequate & out of control.  As a result they keep hidden their wishes regarding a variety of important issues.   They also tend to put-off making the essential decisions and plans which would really spare everybody’s emotions.

Stress and grief cause a lot of very strong emotions, so leaving important decisions until you are sick, or hoping that family-members will somehow know what to do at that time, can sometimes lead to poor decisions.  Mistakes get made; shortcuts are taken; errors of judgment compound an already-difficult situation.

And (like insurance), you generally cannot put suitable arrangements and protections in place after the disaster has struck.

That is why it is essential for everyone to make appropriate advance-medical and end-of-life decisions in advance. It is far better and easier to make these decisions when you (and your family) are still healthy and calm – it will be less tense and emotionally charged.

Make your advance-medical-directive wishes clearly understood to your family, so there is no need for doubt or interpretation on their part at a crisis-moment.  It can help prevent a lot of problems later and is likely the kindest thing a person can do for the sake of family unity.

5 Common Estate Planning Mistakes

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Even More Reasons to Create an Estate Plan Now

consultation

Some people think that estate plans are for someone else, not them. A common misconception is that estate planning is only important for the wealthy or elderly. They may rationalise that they are too young or don’t have enough money to reap the benefits of a plan. But here are some more reasons why estate planning is for everyone, regardless of age or net worth.

  • Loss of capacity. What if you become incompetent and unable to manage your own affairs?  Legal, medical and lifestyle decisions will need to be made for you, but without a plan the courts will have to select the person to manage your affairs. With an integrated estate plan in place, you choose that person, through a careful combination of powers of attorney and advanced directives.
  • Minor children. Who will raise your children if you die? Although a court will make the final determination, you are able to nominate the guardian of your choice in your Will, and the court will give very serious consideration to your wishes.
  • Dying without a Will (intestate). Who will inherit your assets? Without a plan, your assets pass to your heirs according to your state’s laws of intestacy (dying without a will). Your family members (and perhaps not the ones you would choose) will receive your assets without benefit of your direction or of trust protection. With an integrated estate plan, you decide who gets your assets, and when and how they receive them.

Genders and Partners

Estate Planning for Every Business Owner

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Estate Planning for Every Business Owner

Every business owner needs some basic estate planning documents, even if you are not married, have no-one financially dependent upon you, or your business is not worth much yet.   You should consider the potential value of your business, and recognise that it is dependent upon you  If you have a spouse, life partner, or children, you definitely need to consider estate planning documents to provide for what would happen if you die or become incapacitated.

Here are the documents you may need to obtain:

Enduring Power of Attorney

This document gives another person power (your agent) to handle your finances in your absence.  This may include paying your bills, negotiating a lease, dealing with employees, contractors & government departments, or working with your bank.  You can give your agent power immediately or only upon your incapacity.

Medical Power of Attorney

Everyone age 18 and over should have this document.  It names & empowers the person you want to make medical decisions for you, if you cannot do it for yourself.  Do yourself & your loved ones a BIG favour, and create this now.

Will

Your Will says who you want to receive your assets after you die, who should handle your affairs upon your passing, and who you want to be a guardian for your children.  This must be formally executed to be valid, typically with 2 witnesses, depending upon state law.  Everyone should have a Will.

Other Documents

Some of you may need other documents, such as discretionary trusts, property agreements, co-habitation agreements, pre-nuptial agreements, irrevocable trusts, special needs trusts, superannuation trusts or life insurance trusts.

Estate Planning- The Revolution Continues

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Estate Planning After Relationship Breakdown

Estate Planning After Relationship Breakdown

If you are about to separate from your spouse or partner, but your current Will, Trust or Advance Directives still give him or her control over your assets and your medical decisions, it’s urgent that you have all of your estate planning documents re-created now.

No matter how old you are or whether you have kids, it’s important to consult a lawyer who specialises in estate planning to make sure you have an updated estate plan for your new life once the dust has settled.

If you are married, remember that in all Australian states the law considers you to still be legally married until your divorce becomes final, and this cannot happen until at least 12 months after separation. If anything happens to you before that divorce Decree-Absolute is issued, your estranged spouse will retain the power to make decisions over those aspects of your life, if that is what your estate planning documents permit.  Remember also, that marriage will generally revoke and invalidate an earlier Will, however Divorce may not have the opposite effect. If you have separated, but haven’t gotten around to making a new Will and advance directives (such as powers of attorney), you definitely need to deal with these now.

Genders and Partners

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Don’t Make These Common Mistakes with your Discretionary Family Trust

Discretionary trusts (often called family trusts) are very powerful planning tools you can use for all kinds of purposes. Trusts can simplify & minimise or even avoid probate, protect your beneficiaries from creditors or divorcing spouses and

Don’t Make These Common Mistakes with your Discretionary Family Trust

can provide for education for grandchildren or your favourite charities.

When a trust is part of your overall comprehensive estate plan, you should try to avoid these common trust mistakes:

Mistake 1: Failing to title assets in the name of your trust

If you have not put your assets into your trust, also called “funding” your trust, you have lost some of the benefits of your trust.

Any assets that are in your own name at the time of your death will probably need to be probated. However, any assets that are titled in the name of your trust at the time of your death will avoid probate and usually result in lower after-death administration costs.

In order to receive the protection and benefits capable of being provided by the trust, generally (except for superannuation funds and certain annuities) most of your assets would need to be transferred into your trust during your lifetime.

Wills and Estate Planning Adelaide: Create an Integrated Estate Plan That Works

There are lots of reasons why estate plans fail, including poor documents, failure to update them, careless titling of assets, and forgetting to nominate or update beneficiary designations.

Create an Integrated Estate Plan That Works

Then there are the situational problems, where there is a failure to properly address family issues and dynamics.

So how do you define an estate plan that will work for you and your family when it’s really needed?

Let’s take a quick look at some of the features I would ideally wish to see in an integrated estate plan:

It should give you access and control over your property while you are alive and well. This won’t be the case if your assets are jointly titled with someone other than your spouse or if you fail to follow through on the terms of a property settlement agreement after a divorce.

Genders and Partners

Intestacy: How Property is Distributed without a Will

When a person dies without a Will, this is known as dying “intestate”.  This might happen because their death occurs before they even considered writing a Will. Some people feel that they don’t need a Will because they don’t have a substantial estate. A person might write a Will, only to have a Court declare it invalid after they die, which has the same legal effect as dying without a Will at all.

When a person dies without a Will, the law has to find a way to distribute that person’s property. In some parts of the world, the government will take most or all of the deceased’s estate, but in most western countries there is a strong preference in the law to keep property in the family of the deceased, generally leaving it to the closest living relatives.

The exact order of priorities among relatives differs from state to state in Australia, but the goals of intestacy law (keeping property in the family) are broadly the same, so the schemes in each State are usually quite similar.

Often the surviving spouse will receive the first “piece” of the deceased’s estate. The value of this piece varies over time.  For example, in South Australia for many years the surviving spouse in an intestacy would receive the first $10,000 plus a percentage of the remaining estate. In February 2009, the law in South Australia was changed to increase this to $100,000 plus a percentage of the remaining estate.